Around the nation, the number of people using, misusing, and abusing illicit drugs has risen in recent years. Drug addiction is an ongoing epidemic, with policymakers and state officials striving to increase awareness and pass legislation to reduce a number of drugs on the illegal market. In New Jersey, the problem is especially poignant. The latest statistics regarding heroin use to highlight the extent of the crisis in the Garden State.
Heroin-Related Death Toll
Currently, the death rate due to heroin overdose in New Jersey is 8.3 deaths per 100,000 people, that is more than triple the national average (2.6). In Camden County, NJ, the death rate is a staggering 20.3. From 2004 to 2014, there were 5,217 heroin-related deaths in New Jersey. The top counties were Camden and Essex, with 11.7% and 11.1% of the statewide death toll. In 2014 alone, 781 people died from implications involving heroin – the fourth year in a row that the state experienced an increase. 2010 saw a low point with 306 deaths (down 45 deaths from 2009), but then the numbers jumped to 449 in 2011 and 591 in 2012. The upward trend continued, with 741 deaths in 2013.
Statistically, the largest age group associated with heroin-related deaths in New Jersey isn’t people under the age of 30. From 2004 to 2008, the most deaths came from people ages 40–49. 2009 was the year people under 30 outstripped the older generation, and from 2009 to 2014 the numbers have continued to rise disproportionately. Heroin now outnumbers suicide, homicide, and car accidents as a cause of death in the state. The tragic number of heroin-related deaths is just one of the many tolls this drug has had on the state of New Jersey.
Other Costs To The State
The top cities in New Jersey aren’t the only places affected by heroin abuse, it’s also made its way into the suburbs, including Toms River and Bloomfield. Ocean County has the largest number of people seeking treatment for heroin or opiate abuse – 3,688 people. In 2014, more than 28,000 people were admitted into substance abuse treatment programs with heroin or other opiates as the addict’s primary drug. That’s almost half of the total number of people who entered treatment programs statewide.
The damage heroin causes go well beyond those suffering from the addiction. With so many people seeking treatment, the costs to the state are enormous. Many heroin addicts end up in jail, either from the possession of heroin itself or from crimes done to finance a heroin addiction. In 2014, there were 52,721 drug arrests in New Jersey – up by more than 20% from 2004. More than 17% of all arrests in the state were attributable to drugs.
Taxpayers help pay for state-funded rehabilitation centers and healthcare and medical expenses for overdose cases. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that illicit drugs cost our country more than $11 billion in healthcare costs. Since 2010, 184,038 patients were admitted to substance abuse treatment facilities in New Jersey for opioid or heroin abuse. As the number of heroin addicts rises, so does the number of intravenous drug use Hepatitis-C cases. Experts can’t get an accurate representation of the scope of this issue because heroin use is escalating faster than treatment centers in the state can handle. In five counties, the number of heroin deaths exceeds the number of beds available in treatment centers per 100,000 people.
The state of New Jersey also loses money in lost productivity in the workplace. Addicts often stop going to work completely or lose their jobs. A study by the International Narcotics Control Board estimated that lost productivity cost the nation $120 billion in 2011 – 62% of which was attributed to drug use. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids estimated a higher amount, upwards of $276 billion. The actual cost is difficult to estimate, but it’s high enough to be a major cause for concern.
Finding A Solution
With the heroin problem in NJ hitting an all-time high, state policymakers are striving to spread awareness through education programs and anti-drug campaigns. The federal government recently gave New Jersey $1 million to expand heroin and opioid treatments in three health centers: Atlanticare, Henry J. Austin, and Project Hope.
President Obama’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year requests $1.1 billion for the prevention and treatment of heroin and opioid addiction. The availability of treatment centers and help for heroin addicts is the only hope for New Jersey’s future. Recovering from a heroin addiction takes expert help during withdrawal and detoxification and long-term therapy to kick the habit for good.